01 Sep 2023
Singapore Ambassador to the United States, Mr Lui Tuck Yew, wrote to TIME in response to their article “A Wave of Scandals is Testing the Singaporean Government’s Ability to Take Criticism”, published on 2 August 2023. TIME conveyed appreciation of the feedback but said that it would not be able to publish our response as it no longer publishes such Letters.
The full text of Ambassador Lui’s letter is below.
16 August 2023
To The Editor:
I refer to your article (“A Wave of Scandals Is Testing the Singaporean Government’s Ability to Take Criticism”, 2 Aug 2023).
2. The Singapore Government does not claim nor seek a monopoly on the truth. But we do believe that objective facts exist and can be ascertained.
3. Without a foundation of facts in public discourse, no democratic political system can survive, let alone thrive. We have seen how an avalanche of falsehoods, conspiracy theories and “alternative facts” has resulted in disastrous outcomes even in strong democracies like Britain and the United States.
4. The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) targets online falsehoods that affect the public interest. It does not apply to opinions.
5. Pofma issues correction directions. These require the government’s clarifications to be published alongside the original posts, which need not be taken down. Readers can examine both the original posts and the Government’s explanations, and judge for themselves.
6. The writer of the original posts can challenge the correction directions in court. In the case of Mr Lee Hsien Yang, he claimed that he stood by his words, but he chose not to test this in court.
7. Singaporeans are free to express their opinions, however critical of the Government. If that were not so, how would Time have been able to quote so many Singaporeans criticising the ruling party and predicting its imminent demise? These voices are hardly representative, but they are certainly not suppressed.
Lui Tuck Yew
Singapore Ambassador to the United States